Family history, family tree, or genealogy, no matter how you refer to it, is one of my favorite hobbies.  Most people I know, do not share this passion.  Okay, I am not sure that, none any of my immediate family do either.

Over 20 years ago, I was contacted by a 2nd cousin.  She was looking for information about our great grandfather, Frank Sternhagen.  I wasn’t much help at the time.  What she really did, was open the door of wonder and curiosity for me. She began my trek to learn more.

Apparently, our last name of Sternhagen, really isn’t what it should have been.  You see, Frank was born, before his mother, Catherine married Fritz Sternhagen.  Back in the 1860’s, it probably wasn’t easy being a single mother raising young son, on your own.  Luckily, Fritz, was willing to raise him as his son, giving him the Sternhagen name.

Well, that is the part of the story, that I verified.  From my cousin, Catherine, was possibly married to a Mr Novak.  During the Civil War, he was killed. Then, she married Fritz and they had several more children.  Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any evidence of him.  All I know is that, Catherine Dvorak married Fritz in 1862.  Yes, notice her last name?  It wasn’t Novak.  So, if she was married to Mr. Novak, why wasn’t that her last name?  At the most, it was only a year, from when he would have been killed.

Growing up, my dad always told us, that we were not related to any of the other Sternhagens in Bon Homme County.  Clearly, that was not the case.  I am not sure why he believed that.  But thru my research, it is obvious, that we are.  This even includes, someone in my class, who I had a huge crush on.


When John and I had our 10th anniversary, I wanted to go on, basically, a family history journey.  A lot of it was about Frank.  We started in Bon Homme County, and didn’t learn much there.  Then, we traveled to Spillville, Iowa.  Before the Sternhagens finally settled in South Dakota, they were in that area.  Again, no specific facts were uncovered.  Expect for, how to correctly pronounce Dvorak, that is.

Since no physical evidence has been unearthed, I talked my brother into taking the y-DNA test.  Evidently, there is certain DNA, that is only passed down through the males in the family.  Well, Frank is my great grandfather on my paternal side.  Meaning, it is all males in that line.  My brother had to take the test and I couldn’t.  So, I was hoping, it would magically show, what our real last name is.  Guess what, when the results came in, no such luck.  It was so confusing.  Maybe the answer is there.  But I can’t understand any of it.

Needless to say, Frank started as my brick wall, and continues to be my brick wall.  However, along the way, I have discovered many new things.  Possibly, even including, an ancestor who came over on the Mayflower.  My quest will continue, and maybe some day, someone in the family, will join me in this search.  Either way, I am happy with all I have turned up.